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January 10, 2006
Symantec Norton Protected Recycle Bin Exposure

Revision History

Risk Impact

Remote AccessNo
Local AccessYes
Authentication RequiredYes
Exploit publicly availableN/A


Norton SystemWorks contains a feature called the Norton Protected Recycle Bin, which resides within the Microsoft Windows Recycler directory. The Norton Protected Recycle Bin includes a directory called NProtect, which is hidden from Windows APIs. Files in the directory might not be scanned during scheduled or manual virus scans. This could potentially provide a location for an attacker to hide a malicious file on a computer.

Symantec has released a product update that will now display the previously hidden NProtect directory in the Windows interface.

Affected Product(s)

Norton SystemWorks2006Run LiveUpdate
2005Run LiveUpdate
Norton SystemWorks Premier2006Run LiveUpdate
2005Run LiveUpdate

The NProtect directory is used to store temporary copies of files that the user has deleted or modified. This feature supplements the Windows Recycle Bin, creating a temporary backup of certain types of files that the Windows Recycle Bin does not back up. The Norton Protected Recycle Bin allows the user to recover these protected files if they are accidentally deleted.

NProtect is hidden from the Windows FindFirst/FindNext APIs. Since the hidden directory is not visible to Windows, files in the directory might not be scanned during scheduled or manual virus scans. Files in the NProtect directory are scanned by on-access scanners like Symantec's Auto-Protect, and by the on-access scanners of other vendors' products.

When NProtect was first released, hiding its contents helped ensure that a user would not accidentally delete the files in the directory. In light of current techniques used by malicious attackers, Symantec has re-evaluated the value of hiding this directory. We have released an update that will make the NProtect directory visible inside the Windows Recycler directory. With this update, files within the NProtect directory will be scanned by scheduled and manual scans as well as by on-access scanners like Auto-Protect.

The NProtect directory will continue to function as it always has, and users will continue to have the ability to enable or disable the feature through the Norton Protected Recycle Bin user interface.

Symantec Response
Symantec product engineers have developed and released an update for products affected by this exposure. The update is available through Symantec LiveUpdate by running a manual update. To manually update via Symantec LiveUpdate, users should:

  • Open Norton SystemWorks
  • Click on LiveUpdate
  • Run LiveUpdate until all available Symantec product updates are downloaded and installed
This update will require a system reboot.

Symantec is not aware of any attempts by hackers to conceal malicious code in the NProtect folder. This update is provided proactively to eliminate the possibility of that type of activity.

As a part of normal best practices, users should keep vendor-supplied patches for all application software and operating systems up-to-date. Symantec recommends customers update their products to protect against any probability of this type of threat.

Symantec would like to thank Mark Russinovich of Sysinternals (www.sysinternals.com) and the F-Secure Blacklight team (www.f-secure.com/blacklight/) for their cooperation in working with us on this issue.

Symantec takes the security and proper functionality of our products very seriously. As founding members of the Organization for Internet Safety (OISafety), Symantec supports and follows the principles of responsible disclosure. Symantec also subscribes to the vulnerability disclosure guidelines outlined by the National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC).

Please contact secure@symantec.com if you feel you have discovered a security issue in a Symantec product. A Symantec Product Security team member will contact you regarding your submission. Symantec strongly recommends using encrypted email for reporting vulnerability information to secure@symantec.com. The Symantec Product Security PGP key can be found at the end of this message.

Symantec has developed a Product Vulnerability Response document outlining the process we follow in addressing suspected vulnerabilities in our products. This document is available below.

PDF Symantec Vulnerability Response Policy PGP Symantec Product Vulnerability Management PGP Key

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Initial Post on: Tuesday, 10-Jan-06 11:47:00
Last modified on: Friday, 13-Jan-2006 15:56:16 PST